Vai Sikahema (born 29 August 1962) is a Tongan former American football player and television news reporter. The first Tongan ever to play in the National Football League (NFL), he played running back and kickoff returner in the league for eight seasons, from 1986 to 1993. He played college football for the Brigham Young University Cougars, and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) in the tenth round of the 1986 NFL Draft. He also played for the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring after the 1993 season. Since retiring he has served as Sports Director for WCAU, the NBC owned-and-operated station in Philadelphia, where he has been since 1994.
|Born:||29 August 1962|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)|
|Weight||191 lb (87 kg)|
|High school||Mesa (Mesa, Arizona)|
|NFL draft||1986 / Round: 10 / Pick: 254|
|1986–1990||St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals|
|1991||Green Bay Packers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Pro Bowls||1986, 1987|
Sikahema was born in Nukuʻalofa, the capital of Tonga. In 1967, when he was 5, the family traveled to New Zealand at great personal expense to be sealed in the temple, an ordinance in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). They remained in New Zealand for three months until his father had earned enough money shearing sheep for them to return to Tonga.
His parents later went to the Church College of Hawai'i (now Brigham Young University–Hawaii), leaving Sikahema and his siblings with relatives in Tonga. After a year of working at the Polynesian Cultural Center they had enough money to bring Sikahema to join them. His family later moved to the U.S. state of Arizona, settling in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix. It was here that they got legal resident status and were eventually able to bring his other siblings to join them. Sikahema attended Mesa High School, where he played high school football.
In 1980 Sikahema enrolled at Brigham Young University, where he played college football for the BYU Cougars. As a freshman, he endeared himself to Cougar fans by returning a punt for a touchdown in BYU's 46–45 come-from-behind victory over SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. He played one more season after that (1981), serving mainly as a return specialist, before leaving school for two years to serve as a Mormon missionary in South Dakota. Sikahema returned to BYU in 1984. That season, the Cougars posted a perfect 13–0 record, claiming college football's national championship. By the end of his senior year (1985), he held an NCAA record for most punt returns (153) in a career.
He was a special teams standout for several teams, including the St. Louis/ Phoenix Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles. In 118 career games over eight seasons from 1986-1994, he returned a total of 527 kickoffs or punts, gaining a total of 8,102 yards. Sikahema was named to the Pro Bowl twice (in 1986 and 1987). It was during his stint with the Eagles that he came up with the famous "goalpost punching" stunt after scoring an 87-yard punt return touchdown in a 1992 game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.
Upon retiring in 1994, Sikahema was hired by then-CBS owned and operated television station WCAU in Philadelphia to do weekend sports. Surviving the station's sale to NBC, Sikahema later moved to weekdays, becoming a morning news anchor as well as the station's sports director. As of 2018[update], he had been a fixture at the station for 24 years.
On July 30, 2020 the Philadelphia Inquirer reported "NBC10 anchor and former Philadelphia Eagle Vai Sikahema will retire from his morning news post later this year, the station confirmed Thursday."
Sikahema also regularly contributes a column, generally related to religion rather than sports topics, to the Deseret News.
Sikahema's younger cousin is Deuce Lutui, who used to play guard for the Arizona Cardinals. Another cousin, Reno Mahe, also played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sikahema's nephew by marriage is actor Jon Heder, star of the films Napoleon Dynamite and Blades of Glory.
In May 2008, Sikahema accepted an open challenge from former baseball player Jose Canseco to fight him in a celebrity boxing match for $25,000. Canseco claims to have earned black belts in Kung Fu, Taekwondo, and has experience in Muay Thai, while Sikahema, who grew up wanting to be a professional boxer, had fought 80 amateur bouts while younger. The Canseco fight was held on 12 July 2008, in Atlantic City at the Bernie Robbins Stadium, and was dubbed The War at The Shore. Sikahema won by knockout in the first round and donated the $5,000 purse to the family of Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski, a fallen officer of the Philadelphia Police Department.
Sikahema is a member of LDS Church. He has been a resident of Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey together with his wife, the former Keala Heder, and four children. Sikahema currently serves as an area seventy in the LDS Church. He previously served as a stake president from 2014-2019, when he was called as an area seventy. Before that he served as a bishop and counselor in the Cherry Hill Stake Presidency. He was a key figure in the negotiations that led to the city approval of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, being a personal friend of Mayor Michael Nutter.
Sikahema was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame on November 22, 2013.
- "Tongan pair join Big Ben centre stage". The Australian. Agence France-Presse. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Doug Robinson. Mormon faith infuses all aspects of life for Vai Sikahema, Deseret News, Oct. 11, 2010]
- Sikahema, Vai (31 January 2011). "Vai's View: A legal immigrant's take on immigration".
- "Vai Sikahema - NBCUniversal Media Village". www.nbcumv.com.
- Vai Sikahema came into the fight with 80 amateur fights. "Bernard Fernandez: Conseco, Sikahema in celebrity boxing event in Atlantic City", Philadelphia Daily News, 27 May 2008.
- "Interview with NBC's East Coast Sportscaster, Vai Sikahema – Part 4 – LDS". Lds.families.com. 31 December 1981. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
- Kravitz, Gary. "Where Are They Now: KR/PR Vai Sikahema", Philadelphia Eagles, 2 April 2004. Retrieved 25 March 2011. "Sikahema currently resides in Mount Laurel, N.J., with his wife, Keala, and four children: Landon, L.J., Trey, and Lana."
- "New Stake Presidents", Retrieved Jan 25, 2014. "Sikahema currently resides in Mount Laurel, N.J., with his wife Keala and four children: Landon, L.J., Trey, and Lana. President — Vai Sikahema, 51, news anchor for NBC;"
- Doug Robinson, Mormon faith infuses all aspects of life for Vai Sikahema, Deseret News, Oct 11, 2010